7 Kenyan Women Setting Trends on the Global Scene

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    A collage of Captain Peninah Karanja, Chef Bernice Kariuki and Entrepreneur Njeri Rionge.
  • On Tuesday, March 8, President Uhuru Kenyatta led Kenya in celebrating World International Women's Day at the Kenya School of Government in Nairobi where he recognized the role women play in the society.

    A number of Kenyan women have established themselves as formidable forces in their areas of practice, with a section of them breaking even in fields previously dominated by men.

    From serial entrepreneurs to pioneers in the aviation and seafaring industries, Kenyan women have placed themselves in the echelons of various career paths. 

    Kenyans.co.ke looks at some of the women who have made names for themselves in the international front.

    Animage of Kenyan entreprenwuer,Njeri Rionge
    An image of Kenyan entrepreneur, Njeri Rionge
    Njeri Rionge

    Njeri Rionge

    Africa has a few women billionaires, and among them is Kenya's Njeri Rionge. Known as a serial entrepreneur, Rionge has invested in several businesses in the ICT sector. Based in Canada, she is the co-founder of Wananchi Group Holdings which is among East Africa's leading internet service providers. 

    Named among Africa's Top 100 Women CEOs by a Ghanaian publication in 2019, she has also been recognised as Africa's Most Successful Woman (Forbes 2011) and Africa's Top 25 Richest Women by a Nigerian publication.

    Notably, Rionge has on numerous occasions noted that her entrepreneurial journey began in Kenya where she sold yoghurt from the trunk of her friend's vehicle.

    "My first business was selling yoghurt from a friend's car trunk. I was selling it to the International School of Kenya and Loretto Convent Musongari High School students during breaks. I saw a business opportunity and acted on it, determined to turn it into a reality," she stated.

    An image of Captain Peninah Karanja of Rwandair Airlines.
    An image of Captain Peninah Karanja of Rwandair Airlines.
    Women Power Africa

    Peninah Karanja

    Peninah Karanja made history in 2013 when RwandAir announced her as a captain, making her the first female captain in the country. What's more intriguing about her career growth is that she became a Captain barely a year after she joined the Rwandese national carrier.

    Karanja's story dates back to 2004 when she flew to South Africa to join the 43 Air School in Port Albert to pursue a course in piloting. An alumnus of the Loreto High School Limuru, she acquired skills and practice in the aviation industry before RwandAir poached her in September 2012.

    She is among the Captains of the airline's Boeing fleet flying the iconic 737NG. Karanja has uplifted women in the industry with Esther Mbabazi, Rwanda's first female captain being one of her early mentees.

    Oxford University Professor, Patricia Kingori
    Oxford University Professor, Patricia Kingori

    Patricia King'ori

    In December 2021, Patricia King'ori was promoted to full Professor, not only becoming among the youngest woman but also among the youngest black person to achieve such a feat in Oxford University's 925-year history.

    A renowned researcher, King'ori was also bestowed with a historic distinction in recognition of the quality and worldwide impact of her work in academia and other sectors. For instance, her Ph thesis in sociology was exceptional, having passed without corrections.

    In addition, her publications have been used as a point of reference by several scholars and have won several competitive academic grants worth millions. The scholar has also consulted with leading global organizations including the World Health Organization (WHO).

    A File Image of Liz Marami On Duty
    A File Image of Liz Marami On Duty

    Elizabeth Marami

    Elizabeth Marami, Kenya's first female marine pilot adds to the list of women who have steered their respective careers internationally. Marami is currently based in Miami, Florida, where she works with a leading cruise ship company, Celebrity Cruises.

    In September 2022, Marami was promoted from a Second Officer to a First Officer. She is serving under the guidance of Captain Kate McCue, and other captains of Celebrity Edge, one of the company's prime ships.

    Her promotion marked her milestone at the company as she was part of the first-ever all-female team at Celebrity Cruises to set sail, on March 8, 2020. Back home, Marami is recognized in the industry and by President Uhuru Kenyatta, who heaped praises on her during the commissioning of the Bandari Maritime Academy in July 2019.

    Undated Photo of Prof Phoebe Okoya in Profile of UK University Legal Department
    Undated Photo of Prof Phoebe Okoya in Profile of UK University Legal Department
    Legal.org UK

    Phoebe Okowa

    Phoebe Okowa, a little-known lawyer, made continental history when she became the first African woman to be elected to the United Nation International Law Commission after garnering 162 votes.

    Okowa will serve for a four-year term at the legal commission whose headquarters is in New York, United States beginning 2023. Her candidacy was backed by the African Union and the United Kingdom.

    A Professor in Public International Law at Queen Mary University in London, she and 33 other members will be tasked with drafting, researching, and expanding international law for the UN.

    A collage image of Chef Bernice Kariuki at the Arsenal Training Center in London.
    A collage image of Chef Bernice Kariuki at the Arsenal Training Center in London.
    Bernice Kariuki

    Bernice Kariuki

    For many years, Arsenal Football Club has been described as a formidable force in the English Premier League. Little known details of a Kenyan lady, Bernice Kariuki, is among the key staff serving this team.

    Kariuki, a chef for the clubs' first team, is charged with the responsibility of preparing meals at the London Colney Training Center. She is tasked with managing the wellbeing and nutrition of the team on a daily basis, both pre and post-match.

    Hailing from Jericho in Nairobi's Eastlands area, she was among the new staff brought in by the club in its transition that saw former legend Mikel Arteta take charge. She is a trained chef by profession and has worked with some of the top-tier hotels across the United Kingdom.

    "A girl from the ghetto Jericho living nothing but her dreams. May I reintroduce myself as Arsenal's first-team private chef," she announced upon her appointment.

    Betty Murungi, Senator James Orengo's wife addresses the media at a past summit
    Betty Murungi, Senator James Orengo's wife addresses the media at a past summit

    Betty Murungi

    On March 2, this year, renowned lawyer Betty Kaari Murungi was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate violations in the Tigray conflict in neighbouring Ethiopia.

    The announcement was made by the organs President, Ambassador Federico Villegas. She was appointed alongside legal scholar Steven Ratner and former Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda.

    Murungi and her colleagues will be tasked with establishing the facts and events which surround the conflict, building on a report, and making recommendations on technical assistance to the Government of Ethiopia in support of accountability, reconciliation and healing.